Even when Jose Reyes returns from his left ankle sprain, the Toronto Blue Jays expect to continue using Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the number two and three spots of the lineup.
Manager John Gibbons told Jeff Blair and Gregg Zaun on Baseball Central that Melky Cabrera will likely move down in the batting order when Reyes reclaims the leadoff spot.
Gibbons likes hitting Bautista and Encarnacion second and third, respectively, since it gets them to the plate in the first inning of every game. “I like the way that looks,” Gibbons said.
Placing a slugger such as Bautista in the number two spot of the lineup may be an unconventional move, but it means the team’s best hitters come to the plate more often. Studies such as those in The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball suggest that batting a player of Bautista’s calibre second gives teams a small advantage over time.
“Over the course of the season that adds up,” Gibbons said.
Reyes is expected to play in a simulated game and participate in minor league games in the coming weeks. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported Friday that Reyes could appear in a rehab game Monday.
Gibbons, a member of the coaching staff for the upcoming All-Star Game, said Encarnacion and reliever Casey Janssen are strong candidates to play in this year’s mid-summer classic. Bautista could also make the American League team, Gibbons suggested.
Should Encarnacion be selected to hit in the Home Run Derby, Gibbons will let him go. Some suggest the derby can affect hitters’ swings, but it’s not presently a particularly pressing concern for the Blue Jays.
Adam Lind has also been playing at an All-Star level lately. The first baseman/designated hitter has impressed his manager by laying off pitches outside of the strike zone and hitting the ball to all fields.
“I don’t think there’s a hotter hitter in baseball,” Gibbons said. “He’s taken advantage of this opportunity, that’s for sure.”
The back issues that bothered Lind in 2012 appear to have subsided and his physical condition seems good. Gibbons expects to continue mixing Lind and Encarnacion in at both first base and DH.